I never quite understood the entire appeal of online social networking. It always seemed to appeal to peoples’ vain side, often times promoting relentless self promotion. Some people swear by the notion that once we aren’t Facebook friends we’re no longer friends in real life. Ian Bogost presented some convincing arguments about the way structure of Facebook’s network and how it leads to a mesh of different relationship hierarchies that should be separated. The only current remedy for this is privacy settings that enable you to show select bits of information to certain people; but a finer granularity is needed now that the user base has exponentially grown and anyone is allowed to sign up. Professors are interacting with students, colleagues, family, and friends all at the same time and the politics involved in who can see aspects of your life not only about you but extending to others that you know is a tremendous balancing act.
The problem is that it lumps everyone that you know under a single category;the “friend,” whether you met this person at a party last night, went to elementary school with them, or you have known them pretty much your whole life. Today with the Internet and the explosion of smart phones, people are able to carry Facebook everywhere they go. This leads to the depersonalization of the relationships and interactions with people. For example, you can probably change your birthday to occur once every 3 months and people will tell you happy birthday every time. As they don’t remember when your birthday is, they just digest the information that the site is showing them.
Ian’s notion of a collapsed sense of time is accurate, as Facebook does not allow you to specify a time period on the relationships that you have. The example that he gave of a guy posting that he was engaged and receiving congratulations as if it just happened is very true and is similar to my birthday example from above. However this sense of time can play into the strategy that the owners of Facebook want. They want you to update your profile and status right away when things happen, as if your Facebook profile is an extension of your physical self. In this way updating Facebook and letting people know of important changes in your life, products you like, etc., contributes to their overarching goal of Facebook being your second life.